Pointing the Way to Strong Local Food Systems


The USDA released a new report today on its Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food initiative, which coordinates USDA programs that strengthen local and regional food systems and strengthen their economies. Founded in 2009, the program uses existing USDA staff and infrastructure to simplify the process of putting public dollars to work for local economies through USDA programs.

The report details the ways that local food enterprises, with support from the USDA, have provided new income for rural communities, connected farmers to new markets, increased access to healthy food, and built relationships between consumers and farmers. Among its findings: Local food systems generate 13 farm-operator jobs for every $1million in sales. This supports what RAFI has seen through our farm grant program: Investing in local food systems and family farms pays off. It creates jobs and new economic activity in rural communities and throughout the economy.

A map of USDA local foods projects

The new Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food Compass points farmers and other local food systems stakeholders towards successes and new resources in their area by mapping USDA-supported local-food-systems projects.

Along with the report, the program released a new mapping tool, the Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food Compass. In a webinar today, Deputy Secretary of Agriculture Kathleen Merrigan said that the name was chosen deliberately; the USDA hopes that the success stories and resources mapped out in the Compass will “help point us in the right direction.”

Take a look at the Compass, and see what you find out about local food in your area – and then let us know what you think!